viernes, 3 de noviembre de 2017




Gustavus Adolphus II. Elected King of Sweden, of the Goths and Vandals

"Even such is Time, which takes in Trust,
Our Youth, our Joy, our All we Have,
And pays us but with Earth and Dust,
Who in the Dark and Silent Grave,
Where we have wandered all our Ways,
Shuts up the story of our Days
But from this Earth, this Grave, this Dust,
My God will raise me up, I trust."

—Walter Raleigh.


"Ille faciet..."
—King Charles IX, of Gustavus Adolphus II.


"Virtue alone outlasts the Pyramids
Her monuments remain, when Egypt's fall."

—Edward Young.



He forced the Poles, by dint of severe defeats, into yet another truce, even making the implacable Sigismund recognize him as King of Sweden, and then he turned about to face the Emperor in good earnest.
This recent success in the Polish war was now most useful to Gustavus; the duties from the newly acquired Prussian ports amounted to more than the whole revenue of Sweden, and Gustavus also controlled the main German trade routes to the Baltic. After eight campaigns of the most desperate fighting and the most unremitting sacrifices, Gustavus had secured the frontiers of his country against her most formidable neighbours, Sigismund and Christian, extended her territory and increased her income; he had also, after seventeen years of war, built up the finest army in Europe, become (though few as yet knew this) the finest general of the age, and restored his country to law, order and efficiency, besides evoking a spirit of patriotism, mutual goodwill among all classes, enthusiastic and honest loyalty to the crown, then without parallel in Europe.
Gustavus was then as ready as he could ever hope to be to try conclusions with Ferdinand, to stand forth as that champion so long lacking, the soldier of Protestantism.
When he came to this resolve, in 1630, the situation of the Protestants was desperate; they were utterly overwhelmed in Germany and the Emperor had treated them with the greatest vigour; the question of the Confession of Augsburg (1552), i.e. the restitution to the Catholics of the Church lands seized by the Protestants, had been at the bottom of the dispute; a worldly, not a spiritual motive, as usual had been the basis of this infamous war of religion, and now, by the Edict of Restitution, the Emperor more than enforced the Confession, the Protestants were stripped of everything to gorge the Papists.
The Protestants had largely themselves to blame; jealous of each other, feeble, quarrelling over their own advantages, lazy, timid, short-sighted, all eager for place, title and money, the German Princes deserved their fate: and their rapacious generals and lawless mercenaries had helped as much as the Imperialists to turn the wretched country into a shambles.
One is speaking of the leaders only: the common people had no say in anything in Germany nor the Empire, they were not represented in any of the different governments; left to themselves, Catholics and Protestants had lived peaceably enough side by side; it was the rapacity, ambition and jealousy of individual potentates that had stirred up the atrocious war.
So far, in 1630, the position was that the better man had won; there was no one on the Protestant side of the ability of the Emperor and his generals, Tilly and Wallenstein.
Nearly losing crown, estates, and life itself when hurled from his throne of Bohemia in 1618, Ferdinand of Styria had undergone misfortunes that would have crushed most men, but by indomitable purpose and relentless energy, by grim courage and active intelligence he had become in twelve years the foremost power in Europe; he had the great advantage of representing one central authority, an advantage also always enjoyed by his Church, a great and often an irresistible advantage; there was also a force and attraction about the very name; the title of Emperor (Kaiser), like that of Pope, still held a dark and awesome magic.
Ferdinand was also backed by the immense power of Spain, where the rule of an imbecile King, Philip III, had not yet been able to affect the majestic structure built up on the riches of the New World; he had also in his service two of the most famous generals of the day, men reputed to be invincible, Albrecht von Wallenstein, Duke of Friedland, the magnificent Bohemian, educated as a Moravian, now under the influence of Jesuits and astrologers, an arrogant, flourishing, splendid general, and Count Tilly, the implacable Walloon, cruel, bitter, dry, a common man and a genius in the art of war.
To these Imperial advantages Gustavus had little to oppose; the one ally on whom he might have counted, the husband of his Queen's younger sister, Gábor Bethlen, the Vajda of Transylvania, was lately dead.
There was no one else to offer support to Sweden; if she entered the lists against the Habsburgs she must enter alone. England would keep out of the contest as long as possible, the United Provinces were a commercial Republic, jealous of Sweden on the Baltic, and with no intention to jeopardize their own hard-won prosperity by joining in a quarrel of Kings.
Richelieu alone might be relied on to help hold the Emperor in check, but Richelieu had no love for Sweden and Gustavus would to him be only a pawn, as the soldier is usually the pawn of the statesman.
Alone, then, Gustavus decided to face the greatest military power of the age, then flushed with victory and blown with conquest.
Ferdinand sent letters to Gustavus, but refused him the title of King; he was, to all Catholics, a usurper; Gustavus flung the missive back unopened and prepared for war.
Long and anxious had these preparations been; during the winter of 1629-30, nitre and sulphur works, powder mills and armouries, both public and private, were working with feverish activity; a war tax was added to a mill tax and a corn tax; recruiting officers brought in all available men, the tenth drawn by lot from all between the ages of eighteen and thirty.
The King and Oxenstiern had brought the country to such a state of well-organized efficiency that these strenuous exertions were made with the utmost goodwill and cheerfulness.
Volunteers were sought for abroad; Kniphausen raised a useful body of men in England, but Falkenberg got no one in the Netherlands, the Dutch had, reasonably enough, their fill of war; two regiments of lusty Scots under Colonel Morton joined up, and another Scot, Leslie, did some active recruiting in the Hansa towns.
Gustavus could, finally, count on 76,000 men, of whom 43,000 were Swedes; these peasants and yeomen of the Viking-Goth strain were the best fighters in the world. There were, besides, three thousand men left on the fleet.
Gustavus intended to take 13,000 of these troops to Germany, leaving the rest at home as a reserve; he made no formal declaration of war; he considered the Imperial attack on the free town of Stralsund, his ally, as sufficient final excuse for a conflict that had been so long inevitable.
This resolve of Gustavus, suddenly to take the offensive and march into the heart of the enemy's territory, was in the highest degree heroism, but not an errant, wild or ill-considered heroism.
The keenest of level intellects held in check the King's reckless courage, and in the Cabinet he was prudent, wary, thoughtful, as on the field he was impetuous and rash.
The cause which he had stood out to champion was one which could now only be saved by an heroic gesture and he was the man to make it; the risks, of course, were obvious; Tilly and Wallenstein had between them a hundred and thirty thousand men at least; Gustavus and his little force might easily be swallowed up, a very lamb to the bloody jaws of the Imperial wolves raging in Germany.
On the other hand it was greatly to the interest of Sweden to make Germany the theatre of war; her fleet was too weak to blockade the Baltic ports; it was therefore better to seize them, to prevent the Emperor from building up a sea power in the North. Gustavus counted, too, on the German Princes rising to support his audacious enterprise; he relied proudly on the help of God and modestly on his own genius.
"One lost battle would give the Emperor a good shaking," he declared hopefully.
Above all he looked for Divine protection; he believed that the appointed hour had come for the appointed task, and that the highest of causes, that of humanity itself, had been entrusted to him; that he also believed there might be raised up, through his means, a Northern Protestant Empire, of which Sweden would be the head, is no flaw in this faith; spiritual ideals must be achieved by material means; Sweden was as good a prototype of the liberty and tolerance mankind needed as Gustavus was likely to find.
On May 30th, 1630, Gustavus took leave of the States at Stockholm; at thirty-five years he was in the full magnificence of his splendid manhood, tall, massive, golden; he had been wounded again and again in his Polish campaigns, often severely, but his health was superb, he was strong, hardy, clear eyed, deep chested, clean cut in line, brilliant in colouring; his fairness was dazzling; the Italians called him il re d'oro.
He wore his simple soldier's coat and held tenderly in his arms a little girl of three years old, Christina, the only child of his ten years' marriage.
Gustavus told the representatives of his beloved people that the war was for wife and child, home and faith, a war to which he had been driven by the hostile acts of the Habsburgs and the desperate appeals of the tormented Protestants in Germany, and recommended his heiress, Christina, to their loyalty.
The peril of the task he did not underestimate.
"The pitcher that goes too often to the well breaks at last, thus will it fall out with me, through shedding my blood for Sweden; though hitherto God has spared my life, yet at last I must lose it. Therefore I commend you all to God's protection, wishing that after this troublesome life we may all meet each other with God in the Heavenly Immortal Life."
These words and the whole of Gustavus' actions have, of course, been taxed with insincerity; he has been accused of mere personal ambition in his enterprise, a love of war for its own sake, and even of the fantastic hope of placing the dubious diadem of the Habsburgs on his own brow.
So have the greatest of men and the noblest of motives always found their critics; it would seem that there are some who cannot credit the existence of high-mindedness, pure patriotism, genuine piety and lofty motives in humanity, so eager are they to pull to pieces, to belittle and traduce the heroes in whom these rare qualities appear.
Nothing whatever supports the view that Gustavus was not absolutely honest in his declarations; he had his ambitions, as every noble mind must have, but they were such as would benefit mankind, not himself; he aimed at liberty and toleration, which is what all really great men have aimed at and the partial achievement of which is the proudest if not the only boast of modernity.
Gustavus had refused to be "the hireling of France" and had rejected Richelieu's suggestions as to his conduct of the war; he had no desire to be the cat's paw of the mighty Cardinal.
But indirectly Richelieu did help the Swede; in the name of the spoilt child then King of France, Louis XIII, he had made an alliance with the United Provinces and declared war on the overweening Austria by taking the field in Italy, which, with the Rhine and the Palatinate, was his care as the Baltic was that of Gustavus; he also skilfully fomented internal trouble in the Empire, and, if not directly helping Gustavus, he was at least ready to assist him if he was successful.
The Imperialists heard with scorn of the King of Sweden's preparations; Wallenstein, who had once said he was "worse than the Turk," now jeered at the "Snow King" who would melt before the summer sun, and Ferdinand, arrogant and self assured, sneered, "So we have another little enemy!"
The Emperor was indeed slightly too confident; he had behaved, as so many conquerors have behaved, with a cruelty, an insolence and an injustice that damaged his own success; the conduct of Ferdinand was already alienating even some of the Roman Catholics and was the best hope of Gustavus.
The sumptuous, haughty and conceited Wallenstein was bitterly unpopular in Germany and perpetually quarrelling with his colleague, the dreadful Tilly; the military jealousy between these two did not help the Emperor's cause.
On top of this Wallenstein had furiously fallen out with the Jesuits over the Restitution Edict, and finally with the Emperor, who sacrificed his best general to the spite of the priests and the Electors at the Diet of Ratisbon, 1630, at the very moment when Gustavus was landing in Germany.
Ferdinand had been induced to this humiliation by the hope of getting his son elected King of the Romans; the cunning hand of Richelieu was behind these divisions and had thus rendered valuable service to the cause of Gustavus.
Wallenstein went off sulking furiously to Pomerania, and his army, reduced to thirty thousand, was handed over to Tilly.
On June 24th, 1630, simultaneously with these events, Gustavus landed on the coast of Pomerania, at Swinemünde, with his 13,000 men, and began to march into Germany along the line of the Oder; his troops soon increased, by reinforcements from Stralsund, where Leslie commanded, and other Protestant towns on the line of march, to 40,000 men.
When he first landed on German soil he had fallen on his knees in prayer, and it was in a spirit of pious confidence that he proceeded steadily on his way; Pomerania received him as a deliverer joyfully; he made the capital, Stettin, his base, and by the end of the year had cleared the province of the Imperialists.
Gustavus now began to reap the full benefit of his elaborate and masterly system of military organization and discipline; through study and experience he had evolved improvements in warfare that amounted to a revolution in that art so vital to mankind; or, rather, from the rude, cumbrous and simple tactics of the Middle Ages he had created the nucleus of modern military science.
No great soldier who followed him but learnt something, usually a great deal, from Gustavus Adolphus; he was the master of Cromwell, of Turenne, of Conde and Eugène, of Marlborough and Charles XII, and of a host of lesser but still considerable generals, and, more for this reason than because of his actual achievements, resplendent as they were, do some critics consider him as the foremost soldier of modern times.
Hitherto warfare had been considered as one thing with rapine, carnage and thievery; the armies were usually neither fed nor paid, they plundered food and booty from the miserable countries in which they happened to be fighting, and, without any regard to economics or the final issues of the wars, the generals kept their men, nearly always mercenaries, in fighting trim by giving them villages to devastate and towns to sack, this licence being accompanied by every circumstance of horror and cruelty; the Thirty Years' War was for Germany, then struggling into a rude prosperity, nothing less than hell broken loose; the civilization of the country was set back a hundred years.
The huge, motley armies of Tilly and Wallenstein were not fed by the Emperor; as they went their blood-stained, fire-scarred way, they devoured what they could find, with the result that not only was the land ruined, but the troops, often starving, always diseased and intoxicated by lawlessness, murder, power and plunder, were very difficult to control and generally on the verge of mutiny; men fighting for nothing but the most hideous gratification of the most hideous appetites, animated by neither loyalty nor religious fervour, neither patriotism nor any other ideal, accustomed to every device of cruelty and ruthless destruction, did indeed become little better than devils, as the mind of the seventeenth century conceived devils, and like devils had the mercenary soldiers racked and ravaged Germany for twelve years when Gustavus Adolphus made his headquarters at Stettin; the Protestants were in no wise different from the Papists; the bands of Mansfeldt, of Christian of Anhalt, of Christian of Brunswick were as atrocious in their behaviour, as loathed by the unfortunate inhabitants, as the hordes commanded by the Catholic League.
The army of Gustavus was in no way similar; the Swedes were brave to recklessness, wilful and independent, full of the old adventuring spirit of the Goth and Viking, but they were humane, obedient, prudent, austere, and patient; above all they were animated by a fervent piety and excellently disciplined. Gustavus paid and fed them, looked after their comfort, their clothes, their weapons, their quarters; they were forbidden to take even a fowl from a cottage without paying for it; Gustavus saw that a country laid waste was a poor conquest and that the moral of an army accustomed to licence must speedily deteriorate.
He tried, as he was able, to put the men into uniform, he saw that their boots were waterproof and warmly lined, their armour light and efficient; he went among them, looking after their needs himself, he shared all their hardships; as with most great men, his character helped him in his work as much as his genius, he was loved for what he was, as much as for what he did; his warm, amiable disposition, his charm of manner, as well as his fiery high-mindedness and deep sincerity, made him the very idol of his men; a group of Swedish nobles, Banér, Kniphausen, Torstenson, Nils Brahe, under his teaching had become his enthusiastic disciples.
Even his hot temper, so superbly controlled, so humorously excused, made him popular; after a brush with some of the obstinate Scots officers, he cried with a laugh: "Well, if I have to put up with them, they have to put up with me!"
After his army had been a few months in possession of Pomerania the inhabitants adored him; they had not believed that any soldier could be courteous, considerate, gentle; the Swedes became wildly popular, and the figure of their King appeared to the German Protestants the noble figure of a deliverer from their torments.
Had it been left to the people the whole of Reformed Germany would have declared for Gustavus, but the princes, divided by jealousies, afraid of the Emperor, and haunted by a traditional loyalty to the Empire, hung back.
Gustavus strengthened his hold on the coast, fortifying all the places he had taken; Oxenstiern was advancing through East Prussia to join him; the Imperial forces fell back on Garz and there entrenched themselves; there was a lull in the activity of the war.
Gustavus had already gauged the lethargic temperament of the Protestant Princes and realized that what he did he must do alone; his task appeared gigantic, even in his own eyes, but it was far from hopeless.
The Imperialists at Garz were in a miserable condition, cold, hungry, mutinous, half the cavalry without horses, half the infantry without sufficient clothes or weapons; Gustavus flung himself out of Pomerania, fell on the enemy and drove them out of Garz on Christmas Day, 1630; Schaumburg, the Emperor's man, tossed his guns into the marshes of the Oder, fired the town and fled southward; it was not a large advantage, but it was one very important to Gustavus at that moment; it had the great value of a first success; it heartened the Protestants, gave a lustre to the reputation of the King, infuriated Tilly, and made Ferdinand, arrogant in Vienna, notice that the King of Sweden was in Germany.
Gustavus next built a fortified camp at Barwalde, where he housed his troops, and here (January, 1631) he concluded a treaty with Richelieu whereby he was to be paid an annual subsidy by France on condition that he preserved the status quo ante bellum; there were other articles, creditable to both signatories; the treaty made for moderation, toleration and balance of power.
As a set off to this good fortune Gustavus found himself ignored by the Protestants at whose invitation he had invaded Germany; even his brother-in-law, the Elector of Brandenburg, held back in a dull neutrality, while the head of the Lutherans, John George of Saxony, was jealously hostile.
But if they were inert, so were the Imperialists; Count Tilly, slow, aged, old-fashioned, obstinate, would not be drawn into an engagement but hung about on the Weser waiting uncertain reinforcements; he was not used to winter operations and it was not till the end of February that he made for the front of the Swedes; meanwhile he had sent Pappenheim to invest Magdeburg, the free city that was almost the only declared ally of Gustavus, who had thrown Colonel Falkenberg and a small garrison into the town, pledging his word to relieve it soon.
A Protestant Congress at Leipzig wasted three months in talk in which there was hardly a mention of Gustavus; weary of drowsy friends and a lethargic enemy, Gustavus manoeuvred for a battle in the open with Tilly; he knew that affairs were at that point when a decisive engagement might turn the scale one way or another.
Gustavus moved into the Demmin region and took several small towns; Tilly fell back towards Magdeburg; to draw him away from this precious ally Gustavus menaced Frankfurt am Main; Tilly turned to relieve it, but heard of its fall and retraced his way to Magdeburg.
Gustavus took Landsberg and the road to Vienna lay straight before him; he might have pushed on and bearded Ferdinand in his Austrian strongholds, but he was pledged to the relief of Magdeburg.
His line was now from Mecklenburg to Prussia, with Frankfurt am Main as the centre of his holding, and strong forts all along.
Gustavus now concentrated on the relief of Magdeburg, closely besieged by Pappenheim, the most brilliant of the Emperor's generals, and the veteran Tilly; the King could have saved the city, but was thwarted by John George and George William, who refused him a way across their territories, though they had allowed the Imperialists free passage; Gustavus, after vain negotiations, pushed his way by force through Brandenburg and dictated terms at Berlin; but the delay had proved fatal.
Delivered by treachery Magdeburg fell (May 20th, 1631); the Swedish garrison, the inhabitants to the number of 40,000, were massacred with every detail of fiendish barbarism, and the magnificent city was left a heap of black and bloody charred ruins.
Gustavus had, in his desperate passion, solemnly laid the fate of Magdeburg at the charge of John George when that Prince had barred the ford on the Elbe to the Swedes, and there the bitter blame of one of the most atrocious tragedies of an atrocious and tragic war should be laid.
Gustavus, of course, has been held responsible for the ghastly fate of his ally, but it is clear enough that he made the most vigorous efforts to keep his promise; also that he believed that the city could have held out longer, as it indeed could have done had there not been treachery within the walls.
The infamous sack of Magdeburg did Tilly little good; he drew his ragged, starving troops off southwards, there to await the reinforcements from Italy on which he set such store; the Walloon was not an enterprising general and thought that he had done enough; he believed that the Swedes were exhausted and would be crowded back to the coast, for Saxony and Brandenburg, his unwilling allies, now wavered more definitely towards the Emperor.
As Fürstenberg slowly made his way from Italy (it took him nearly a year to go from Mantua to Germany) to reinforce Tilly, Lord Hamilton landed from England with seven thousand men. These allies were not so valuable as Gustavus may have hoped they would be; they were ill disciplined and of poor quality; before the end of the campaign disease and desertion had reduced them to fifteen hundred.
Gustavus held on, strengthening his position while Tilly dallied; at Rheindorf he surprised the Walloons' cavalry, inflicting a smashing defeat on the Imperialists; William of Hesse-Cassel stood firm by him, and Bernard of Saxe-Weimar joined him; this last, brave, gallant, young and handsome, with black curls and blue eyes, speedily became the ideal German cavalier, in time to come the national hero of the Thirty Years' War, as the great Swede could never be; he was something of an adventurer, but a daring and a gifted soldier.
The nauseous chronicle of the atrocities of Magdeburg, while it filled the Catholics with triumph, did not altogether dishearten the Protestants, while the incredible excesses of the Imperialists marching up from Italy gave the people that stubborn, despairing resistance that the Duke of Alba's cruelties had given the Dutch; it was the way of the Habsburgs to overdo their tyrannies.
Ferdinand, high-handed and implacable, now threw the pusillanimous and vacillating German Princes into the scale against him by his own behaviour; as John George could not decide for himself Tilly decided for him and ravaged his lands; the Elector implored the assistance of Gustavus, and a treaty was concluded which put the Swede in command of the Saxon Army; at last Gustavus assumed the position he should have held a year before, that of acknowledged leader of all German Protestants.


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